For the past six hours the house has been steadily filling with the deliciously savoury aroma of a rich beef and winter vegetable stew. A miniature volcano of homely comfort bubbling away in the kitchen. A stew, moreover, designed to be the perfect meal, both calorifically reticent and nutritionally replete and complete… as well as warming, tasty… and requiring minimal dishwashing.
I don’t often cook much for myself. I cook for my son instead and by the time I get home it will be whatever I can grab that is easy. Bursting with self-righteousness, I decided it was time I used the culinary skills on my own behalf. The whole idea was simple. Throw everything in there to cook… enough to feed me for several days… then I wouldn’t have to think about it again except to switch it back on to reheat. The perfect solution for anyone in the throes of editing, proofing and formatting.
The rare occasions on which I use the thing occur only when I am going to be out most of the day, at which point it comes into its own, as I can come home and eat rather than coming home to cook. I hadn’t reckoned with hours and hours of aromatic torture. Not think about it again? I can’t help it… it is invading my airspace with frustratingly coy temptation.
I started the crock pot going late this morning. By eleven I had already been up an unconscionably long time, my son having decided he wanted to get an early start for a day on his bike. Could I be there for six? I gave him every opportunity to change his mind, but he didn’t seem to notice… nor did he budge.
Now, to get down to his home for six and take him tea in bed (there are some benefits to his situation…), I have to be up no later than half past four. My hands need some time to wake up and become useful and various other bits of my anatomy seem to have their own agenda these days without ever have consulted my preferences on the matter.
Then there’s the dog.
Used, by now, to the odd bout of insomnia, she no longer does more when I wander down, dishevelled and bleary eyed in the wee, small hours, than open one eye and raise an eyebrow from somewhere under the newly constructed fortress of sofa cushions. She reminds me of a character from Dr Seuss… the Biffer Baum Bird… that builds its nest anew each night.
As soon as she sees me switch on either kettle or computer, however, and assures herself that I am actually up, there will be a tennis ball in play. She will ask to go into the garden and every morning I fall for it. She isn’t desperate for the use of the facilities… just desperate for the ball to be thrown out into the darkness so she can chase it.
Regardless of the fact that it is still, technically, the middle of the night, that the stars and moon are silvering the heavens and dawn a long way off, she will also want breakfast. Then a walk. Albeit a brief one, as the dew is awfully chilly at that time of night.
Half an hour to dress and drive, three and a half hours to get my son ready for the off, duly supplied with soup, sandwiches and tea, then a reluctant dash, grumbling through the Christmassy aisles of Tesco for the carrots… I’d been up eight hours before I managed to make a start on the cooking.
And since then, dinner has haunted me… an elusive spectre of forbidden pleasure wafting around the desk as I work, laughing at the desperate gurgles emanating from my midriff and taunting me with promises of withheld delights.
No matter that the long, slow cooking with leave everything tender and delicious, that the fragrance of bay and thyme fill the air and the prospect of an illicit suet pastry crust baked over a portion of it is the stuff gastronomic dreams are made of…
Whoever invented the damnable device should be introduced to another specialist method of cooking … the alleged French military version of the barbecue*…
Is it ready yet?….
*Spit roasting; ‘(de la) barbe au cul’. I say no more…